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Lunatic Cunning Talks Plant Dirty


How many performance artists does it take to change a light bulb? At the close of Lunatic Cunning, his pleasantly oddball show at Dixon Place, James Godwin does all on his own, with just a twist of his wrist. As this ease with household chores perhaps suggests, Godwin is the least interesting aspect of this erratic evening. Rather, Lunatic Cunning succeeds best when he hoods his face, gloves his hands, and gives himself over to manipulating one of the dozens of puppets he has crafted.

The finest are his three-dimensional inventions, but Godwin also has sidelines in toy theater, shadow puppets, and even transparencies. Using the last, he halts the piece—somewhat inexplicably—to give a rendition of “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” Not much links these episodes, although Godwin likes to prattle on about the Jungian unconscious, psilocybin mushrooms, and troubling memories of his childhood. It’s The Muppet Show meets drama therapy, though that perhaps suggests more structure and lucidity than director Tom Burnett has furnished.

Still, every time new creations appear, the wonder they provoke compensates for any narrative defects. There’s a scary floating baby, a melancholy businessman with a detachable head, and a dirty-mouthed plant named Rooty. Though Lunatic Cunning is a one-man show, the co-stars steal it.